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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Obama pledges to improve air security as rights groups challenge screening
Jaclyn Belczyk at 8:54 AM ET

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Tuesday pledged to improve [transcript] airline passenger security, calling last month's attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 "a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence." Obama said that the US government had sufficient information to uncover the plot, but that "our intelligence community failed to connect those dots." According to a review of the terrorist watch list system being conducted by Obama's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan, the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, should have been placed on the no-fly list [JURIST news archive]. Obama said that the terrorist watch list has already been reviewed and that more individuals have been added to the no-fly list. Obama called for initial reviews to be completed this week, with specific recommendations for corrective action. He concluded:

In short, we need our intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement systems - and the people in them - to be accountable and to work as intended: collecting, sharing, integrating, analyzing, and acting on intelligence as quickly and effectively as possible to save innocent lives - not just most of the time, but all the time. That's what the American people deserve. As President, that's exactly what I will demand.

Obama also confirmed that the US will be suspending the transfer [JURIST report] of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen [JURIST news archives], but promised to continue to work toward closing the facility.

On Monday, civil rights groups opposed [JURIST report] stricter screening procedures [TSA press release] for passengers entering the US from 14 countries, calling the measures unconstitutional. The enhanced screening procedures will affect travelers entering the US from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, has been charged [JURIST report] with willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft or aircraft facilities in violation of 18 USC § 32 [text].

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